In urban areas where buildings are in close proximity, shared space or attached elements of a building may be a source of contention or even possibly a legal dispute between building owners. For one pair of building owners in another state, the location, condition and purpose of a newly discovered chimney has caused some strife. Shared urban spaces in Michigan could also be a source of possible contention between building owners, and that contention could even lead to real estate litigation between property owners.

The strife began as a chimney was discovered under stucco, attached to a 71-unit co-op in the city. Upon further investigation, the chimney was attached to one building but also attached to a boiler for the adjacent building. Neither building owner was aware of the purpose or existence of the chimney. The discovery of the chimney led to the discovery of much needed repairs to the structure, repairs that were required by the building codes in the city.

The co-op residential building owner initiated repairs on the chimney. He also emailed the other building owners, a broadcast company, to request that it pay for the repairs. Before any party formally agreed to pay, the repairs were started. The residential building owner sent the broadcast company a bill for $21,000, a bill the company has ignored. The broadcast company states it never agreed to pay for the repairs and a public battled has ensued, yet to be resolved.

In cases where one property or aspects of that property affect another person’s property, it can become difficult to find a resolution. Negotiating a solution between two Michigan property owners to avoid real estate litigation over repairs may be the most cost-effective and timely method of resolving the issue. However, if negotiation or a mutually satisfactory solution cannot be achieved, both parties may have to rely on the civil court system to settle the matter.

Source: The New York Times, “Where There’s No Smoke but Fire: Hidden Chimney Touches Off a Feud“, Matt A.V. Chaban, May 18, 2015

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